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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Rodgers Inherits 32nd Ranked Special Teams

Rick Gosselin's ground-breaking special teams rankings show Carolina as dead last cumulatively. The team obviously did struggle, and finished up by canning special teams man Danny Crossman at the end of the year. Jeff Rodgers, who was with the team in 2009 as well, steps up to inherit the dead-last unit.

Carolina tied for 12th in the league in 2008, buoyed by the consistent strength of specialists Jason Baker, John Kasay, Jason Kyle, and the addition of strong-legged kickoff man Rhys Lloyd. Lloyd's inconsistency, teamed with the loss of numerous special teams stars, helped the team drop from middle of the pack to last.

Mark Jones' defection (and later flirting with the team while injured) hurt - the team lost five yards per kick return and three per punt return without Jones. Special teams captain Nick Goings wasn't retained, and ace special teamer Donte Curry (who was singled out by Jake Delhomme as being missed) didn't stay either. Dante Wesley was the only veteran special teamer kept, and he figured in the mix on defense as well (playing the dime and nickel LB roles after Thomas Davis was hurt). He's a free agent now, but hopes to return. Jason Kyle, experienced snapper, left to give the team uncertainty - but luckily trading for J. J. Jansen didn't hurt them.

With the Julius Peppers saga, along with deals for Chris Gamble and Jordan Gross,
veteran salaries for backups became a premium - not only special teams lost out, offensive and defensive line, defensive back cost as well. Only linebacker had experienced depth, and even then Quentin Culbertson and Jordan Senn (late season additions) quickly impressed to take over the special teams roles from vets like James Anderson.

At any rate, the team looks to 2010 in flux. If they can keep Wesley, and add onto their depth at LB, S, find a returner from the young guys they brought in over the last two years, they might improve. As of now, there's nowhere to go but up.
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